The protests in Wisconsin. The passage of the CR in the House in the dead of night over the weekend. And the continued debate over how to balance the Texas $26 billion budget gap. We kept getting told there are no sacred cows- that all have to share in the burden and pain of budget squeezing.
But realpolitik has shown exactly where the real sacred cows are, while corporate tea party crusaders use the budget crises as a reason to bust unions, raid pensions funds, and slash health services and education budgets, they are leaving intact the tax breaks for oil and gas companies.
Let’s talk Texas first: a new study out this morning by the Texas Tribune showed that Texans want a balanced approach to fixing the budget. The single most popular answer was a 50/50 split of revenue enhancements and spending cuts. However, when you asked people what they wanted to cut spending on, the answer was a resounding NO! to education cuts, NO! to health services cuts, NO! to environmental reg cuts. And when asked where to increase revenue, it was equally sticky. The single most popular options, the only ones which get over 50% support, was to legalize casino gambling and increase alcohol taxes. But taxing vice can only get us so far.
An executive with Chesapeake Energy told members of the Tarrant County legislative delegation Wednesday that the company would consider curtailing activity in Texas if the exemption is discontinued.
“We’d have to look at it on an individual well basis, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that we would reduce our activity in the state of Texas,” Adam Haynes, senior government affairs director for Chesapeake, said after his appearance before lawmakers. “It certainly affects the Barnett Shale, absolutely.” (more…)
Senate Natural Resources Committee Chairman Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) said he expects to act on legislation (Senate Bill 527)that would allow the state to tap into funds from the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan to pay for air monitoring activities near natural gas drilling operations. North Texas Senate Republicans Chris Harris, Craig Estes, Jane Nelson and Florence Shapiro along with Democrat Royce West have signed on as co-authors.
Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth)
Late last year, Senator Wendy Davis(D-Fort Worth) filed a bill (Senate Bill 102) that would require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to tap TERP funds to “conduct short-term and long-term air quality monitoring” to gauge the levels of such pollutants as particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds near various natural gas operations in the Barnett.
Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) filed Senate Bill 772, which, if passed, would require companies using hydraulic fracturing to mine natural gas in Texas to include a unique tracer compound enabling regulators to determine which party is or is not responsible in the event that the fluids find their way into drinking water supplies.
Sen. Davis compared the tracing compound to “DNA” for gas drilling companies. She said the measure would protect both landowners and the operators in the state’s growing shale plays and resolve questions regarding groundwater contamination allegations.
If an effective tracer compound had been used by Range Resources, it might have gone a long way toward settling a dispute between the Fort Worth company and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agencyover two contaminated wells in Parker County containing methane, benzene and other compounds found in natural gas fracking operations.
AUSTIN – Public Citizen Texas will be honoring the recipients of this year’s Texas Outstanding Public Service (TOPS) Awards at the organization’s 25th anniversary dinner today. The awardees are local visionaries, recognized experts and celebrated advocates who have aided in the effort to help Texas realize a more environmentally conscious and sustainable energy future.
Those receiving the TOPS Awards were chosen by Tom “Smitty” Smith, director of Public Citizen Texas, and his staff based on their accomplishments and contributions to the overall health, safety and democracy of all Texans. This year’s lineup of winners includes two journalists, three legislators, two activists, a whistleblower, a legislative aid and a man whose lifetime of achievement merits the finest award of all.
Winners of this year’s awards include Roger Duncan, general manager of Austin Energy, Austin American-Statesman reporter Claudia Grisales, San Antonio Current reporter Greg Harman, state Reps. Dave Swinford and Rafael Anchia, citizen activists Gerry Sansing and Dr. Wes Stafford, state Sen. Wendy Davis, whistleblower Glenn Lewis and state legislative staffer Doug Lewin.
Duncan will receive this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Duncan is a true visionary who has not only blueprinted the greening of the Austin City Council but also of the city’s public utility. He successfully transformed Austin Energy and set standards for the rest of the nation. He has been a major player in the fight for green issues for more than three decades – starting with his journey as a student activist in the 1970s, serving two terms as a member of the Austin City Council in the 1980s and eventually leading the city’s environmental department for nine years as the assistant director. Duncan is considered the architect of several of Austin’s nationally acclaimed energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, including GreenChoice and the Green Building Program. Furthermore, under Duncan’s leadership, Austin Energy adopted ambitious goals to bring more solar energy to Austin, committing to the development of major solar generating capacity. Duncan was also one of a few people to realize early on that the city of Austin had the potential to reduce urban air pollution by using plug-in hybrids. He assembled a coalition of potential buyers of plug-ins in the country and implemented a program at Austin Energy that offered an incentive package for such hybrids. Although he has announced his planned retirement for next year, it will not be surprising to see him in some sort of leadership role in the city in the near future.
In a quote from Duncan published in the Austin Chronicle last month, he said, “Today, it is time for me to return to my original role as an involved citizen of Austin.” Public Citizen Texas welcomes him as such (more…)